One of the hottest chillies in the world, the ghost pepper made it to the Guinness World Records and to the tear gas shells of the Indian army. It also landed a person in a hospital and another in the record book.
If bottled Tabasco sauce or pickled jalapenos make you grab a glass of water, you probably haven’t dealt with the hotness of bhut jolokia.
A naturally occurring interspecific hybrid indigenous to the north-east of India, bhut jolokia is commonly known as ghost pepper all over the world, which is a very literal translation, and is also one of the spiciest chillies in the world. With more than a million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)—the scientific measurement of a chilli’s spiciness, it has left behind Tabasco sauce, jalapenos, and other chillies and peppers far behind on the SHU metre of chilli hotness.
A sweet bell pepper has zero SHU, Tabasco has 100, and Jalapeno has 2,500; an average jalapeno’s spiciness measures at about 10,000 SHU, making bhut jolokia more than 400 times hotter than a jalapeno.
Bhut jolokia was once considered the hottest chilli pepper in the world and packs enough wallop to kill a person, experts say. In fact in 2016, it hit headlines for tearing a hole in a 47-year-old American’s oesophagus when he smothered in a puree made of bhut jolokia on his burger. The hole measured 2.5cm and the man had to temporarily depend on tubes for feeding and breathing.
A study in 1980 also revealed that eating three pounds of the chillies could easily take the life of a 150-pound individual.
Also called naga pepper, red naga, naga morich and naga jolokia, bhut jolokia is at least 1,000 times hotter than commonly used kitchen chilli.
In 2007 it made it to the Guinness World Records, which published that the bhut jolokia was the hottest chilli pepper ever submitted for judgment, and held the record until 2010 when the infinity chilli from Grantham, in England, broke the record.
Tests by Warwick University rated the infinity chilli at 1,067,286 on the Scoville Scale while the bhut jolokia chilli was measured at 1,041,427.
One of the hottest chillies around the world, bhut jalokia does more than putting palates on fire.
The same year it made it to the Guinness World Records, wildlife experts in Assam experimented with it to prevent wild elephants from destroying homes and crops and attacking people who lived close to the mammal’s habitat. They had put up jute fences made of strong vegetable fibre smeared with automobile grease and bhut jolokia chillies. They also used smoke bombs made from the chilli to keep the elephants away.
In 2015, the Indian army used bhut jolokia to make chilli grenades and tear gas shells to counter-attack terrorists who had infiltrated the country.
A chilli, whose smallest portion can make a sauce so tangy that it’s not edible anymore, bhut jalokia has had some daring and extraordinary takers.
In 2009, Assam’s Anandita Dutta Tamuly bit into 51 of these hot peppers while smearing up the seeds of 25 of them in her eyes. A rather bold act, it had Tamuly’s name registered in the Guinness World Records.
Would you dare too?